A Short History of Newcastle Chamber Music Society

In 1880, a group of well-known Newcastle local families and businessmen founded the Chamber Music Society to promote recitals; the first concert was held on November 3rd 1880, in the Old Assembly Rooms on Westgate Road. Subsequently, from the 1970s, the concerts were held in the King’s Hall, Newcastle University (apart from a five-year spell at the Newcastle Playhouse between 1989 and 1994). Then in 2005 there was a move across the River Tyne to the Society’s current venue: Hall Two at Sage Gateshead.

In the early years of the Society’s existence, seasons of four concerts were presented, increasing to six concerts by the Second World War. Artists performing were of a very high standard, including the violinists Joseph Joachim, Pablo de Sarasate and Eugene Ysaÿe. The great Charles Hallé accompanied his wife Wilma Neruda in a violin recital, as did Henry Wood, playing piano for a song recital by his first wife, Olga Hillman. The Society commissioned Charles Villiers Stanford to write his first string quartet, op. 44, the premiere of which was given in January 1892.

In the Society’s 37th season, in 1927, the famous cellist Guilhermina Suggia (memorably painted by Augustus John in 1923) gave a concert, and in 1935 the renowned Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov performed a solo recital of music by Scarlatti, Beethoven and Brahms, and three of his own compositions. In 1937 Myra Hess and the Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Arányi (niece of Joseph Joachim) gave a violin and piano recital. The following year saw a concert by Artur Rubinstein, and in the 1946-47 season a performance of French song was given by the famous partnership of the French baritone Pierre Bernac with the composer Francis Poulenc.

In the decades following the last War the Society has continued to promote concerts by artists of the highest calibre; for a time there was a waiting list to join the Society, such was its prestige! Highlights among performers include the Amadeus, Smetana and Hagen String Quartets and the Israel and Florestan Piano Trios. World-class singers have included Thomas Allen, Ian Bostridge and Joan Rodgers. One-off concert projects have also been a feature of some seasons, such as the complete Beethoven and Tippett quartet cycles performed by the Lindsays (a co-promotion with The Sage Gateshead) in 2005.

The Society continues to be run by a small number of volunteers; it has been a registered Charity and a Company Limited by Guarantee since 1998. An AGM is held each autumn, usually preceding the opening concert of the season.

The notes above were derived from various sources, including the following publication:

Joseph W Pegg Newcastle’s Musical Heritage 2003

Newcastle upon Tyne Chamber Music Society Ltd is a company limited by guarantee (No. 3433055) and a registered charity (No. 1072960).


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